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Adams v. Talbor

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

November 6, 2013

BRYANT ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL TALBOR, MARRY MILLER, LOUIS SHICKER, KEITH ANGLIN, LUKE HARTIGAN, TY BATES, SUZANN BAILEY, WEXFORD HEALTH SOURCES, INC., and UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS MEDICAL CENTER, Defendants.

MERIT REVIEW OPINION

JAMES E. SHADID, Chief District Judge.

This cause is before the Court for a merit review, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, of Plaintiff Bryant Adams' claims.

MERIT REVIEW UNDER 28 U.S.C. § 1915(A)

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A, the Court is required to carefully screen a complaint filed by a plaintiff who seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court must dismiss a complaint, or a portion thereof, if the plaintiff has raised claims that are legally "frivolous or malicious, " that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. The test for determining if an action is frivolous or without merit is whether the plaintiff can make a rational argument on the law or facts in support of the claim. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). A complaint fails to state a claim for relief if the complaint does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

In reviewing the complaint, the Court accepts the factual allegations as true and liberally construes them in plaintiff's favor. Turley v. Rednour, 729 F.3d 645, 651 (7th Cir. 2013). Conclusory statements and labels are insufficient. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8; Schatz v. Republican State Leadership Comm., 669 F.3d 50, 55 (1st Cir. 2012)(holding that, in order to determine if a complaint states a plausible claim, the court must take non-conclusory, non-speculative facts as true, draw all reasonable inferences in the pleader's favor, and isolate and ignore statements that simply rehash claim elements or offer only legal labels and conclusions). Instead, sufficient facts must be provided to "state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Alexander v. United States, 721 F.3d 418, 422 (7th Cir. 2013)(internal quotation omitted).

II.

ANALYSIS

Adams has alleged four causes of action against Defendants-two federal causes of action and two state law causes of action. As for his federal causes of action, Adams contends that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by requiring him to eat a soy based diet. Adams alleges that this soy based diet has caused him to suffer physical illness and stomach problems.

Adams' second federal cause of action is similar to his first. In Count II of his Complaint, Adams alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. Specifically, Adams contends that his long-term consumption of soy based foods while at the Illinois Department of Corrections has caused him to develop an H. pylori infection.

Adams' state law claims are related to his federal claims. Adams avers that Dr. Talbot, Mary Miller, Louis Shicker, Wexford Health, and the University of Illinois Medical Center are liable to him for medical malpractice or medical negligence and that Keith Anglin, Luke Hartigan, Ty Bates, and Suzann Bailey are liable to him for the intention infliction of emotional distress. Accordingly, Adams has filed this suit under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. §1367 seeking injunctive and monetary relief.

A. Adams has failed to state a federal cause of action.

In order to succeed on his claim that Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by failing to provide him with a proper diet, Adams must demonstrate that he is "incarcerated under conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994). In the conditions-of-confinement context, an inmate must show "a serious deprivation of basic human needs, " Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981), or denial of the "minimal civilized measure of life's necessities..." Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 303 (1991). Second, he must show that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to that risk, a subjective inquiry into a prison official's state of mind. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 383-39. "[A] prison official cannot be found liable under the Eighth Amendment for denying an inmate humane conditions of confinement unless the official knows of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or safety; the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference." Id. at 837. The prison official may be held liable only if he knows an inmate faces a substantial risk of serious harm and "disregards that risk by failing to take reasonable measures to abate it." Id. at 847. "[A]n official's failure to alleviate a significant risk that he should have perceived but did not, while no cause for commendation, cannot under our cases be condemned as the infliction of punishment." Id. at 838. Negligence, gross negligence, or even "recklessness" as that term is used in tort cases, is not enough. Shockley v. Jones, 823 F.2d 1068, 1072 (7th Cir. 1987).

In the instant case, the Court finds that Adams' complaints regarding a soy-based diet fail to state a claim under the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Seventh Circuit has held that a well-balanced diet that contains adequate nutritional value, despite being cold or poorly prepared, does not violate the Constitution. Lunsford v. Bennett, 17 F.3d 1574, 1580 (7th Cir. 1994)(quoting Smith v Sullivan, 553 F.2d 373, 380 (5th Cir. 1977)). As to the allegations made in this case, at least three courts have determined that an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights were not violated after he allegedly became ill after eating soy-based foods. Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578, (5th Cir. 1998)("The conditions complained of by Martin, including his contention that he was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment when he became ill after being fed Vita-Pro-a soy-based meat substitute-simply do not rise to the level of cruel and unusual punishment."); Floyd v. McNeil, 2011 WL 6955839 (N.D. Fla. Dec. 5, 2011)("The amount of soy, as shown by the relevant evidence, simply cannot be found to violate "contemporary standards of decency, " or constitute the denial of "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities."); Johnson v. Randle, 2012 WL 1964996, * 9 (S.D. Ill. May 31, 2011)(finding that the allegations of health problems associated with soy intake do not state a claim for damages where the inmate could not show that defendants knew of the risk of harm); c.f. Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993)(holding that the inmate must show that the risk of which he complains is "so grave that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose anyone unwillingly to such a risk").

The Court agrees with these courts that merely being fed a diet based upon soy or soy-based products does not constitute conditions posing a substantial risk of serious harm in violation of an inmate's Eighth Amendment rights. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834. Thus, the Court finds that Count I of Adams' Complaint fails to state an Eighth Amendment claim based upon the ...


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